‘She, whom Jove transported into Crete’
Europa, between consent and rape
in Interweaving myths in Shakespeare and his contemporaries
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The myth of Europa is often referred to as 'the rape of Europa'. Etymologically, it should be more accurately 'the rapes of Europa', implying both 'abduction' and/ or 'forced sexual intercourse'. The ambivalence of the vocabulary chosen by poets when considering this myth mirrors the troubling links between the rhetoric of persuasion and male fantasies of sexual coercion, between mythology and horror. This chapter contends that the reception of the Europa myth is more complex than either side may argue, then as now. It explains that the two poles of reception, cultural and scholarly, owe much to the subtleties of Moschus, Horace and Ovid's source texts. The chapter also shows how Elizabethan sonneteers and Shakespeare drew on these multiple levels of interaction, the ways they both played on different interpretations of the myth itself and interwove it with other myths.

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